1. notleia says:

    Funny literary comics: http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=285
    I should get around to actually reading Dracula. My Gothic horror reading comes mostly by way of Edgar Allen Poe. Short stories are a lot more manageable.

  2. Karen says:

    I agree with your assessment of so much of Dracula, especially the creative dark metaphors it paints with regard to our spiritual lives and the victory of Jesus over our sin natures.

    Have you actually read the Twilight series? I found it shockingly uplifting in many of the same ways. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s not a vampire story; it’s a love story. I have tried so hard to see what people object to regarding the “terrible things in the relationship,” but I just can’t find anything there worth objecting to, other than perhaps a less-than-active main character in Bella. But as far as positively “teen-sex[ing] up the vampire” as you mentioned in your footnote, it’s just not there in the text. The vampire is the one who upholds sexual purity! He insists sex isn’t even an option until marriage, and is very self-sacrificing for Bella. I don’t see the relationship as at all possessive in a dangerous/unhealthy way. It’s just emotionally passionate/intense. I think Twilight has taken a lot of unfair criticism from people who haven’t read the books. As a mom of boys, I was very pleasantly surprised by the life-affirming themes in the story. They were creatively done, and of course there’s always the dark edge of danger because of the vampire element, but the message itself was very redemptive.

    Dracula was excellent and still has redemptive themes, but it is much darker than Twilight ever was, in every way.

    • notleia says:

      That’s the point, really, that cultural narratives cover up red-flag or unhealthy behaviors because they’re excused as “just emotionally passionate/intense.”

      Like the entire thing where Bella loses whatever sense of personhood (that arguably never exists) and ignores all her non-vampire friends to become a codependent glob in Schmedward’s orbit. Or that thing where she does adrenaline-junkie, possibly-unsafe things like cliff-diving so that the Edward that lives in her head will pay attention to her (GURL, get ye to therapy). Or that part in New Moon where Edward tells her who she is and is not allowed to hang out with (the werewolf clan) and where she is and is not allowed to go (the reservation). He’s not her dad, he doesn’t get to make those rules.

      • Never read Twilight, so I can’t comment on it’s actual content, but I’m guessing Bella rarely looks miserable when going along with Edward’s antics, and that’s why people don’t seem to understand the issues?

        I wouldn’t mind people reading stuff like that in small quantities as long as they realized it isn’t healthy to act like the chars, and that they shouldn’t accept those behaviors in a relationship(in fact, with the right guidance, maybe a book like Twilight can be used to point out unhealthy behaviors in a relationship and help kids grow up knowing what to look out for. Even if the book doesn’t directly call those things unhealthy.)

        Even though I don’t think I’d approve of everything in Twilight, ironically I’m almost grateful it exists because it’s got a lot of people talking about those harmful things you’ve mentioned, since it’s practically become a poster child of those issues.

    • Hello Karen! I’ve not (yet?) read any of the Twilight books. I did, however, enjoy the nonfiction book The Twilight Gospel and reviewed this here on Speculative Faith. The author finds many positive elements about the series, including the extolling of marital sexual fidelity. But he also finds plenty of negatives, including the endorsement of “emotional arousal” (my term). I’ve also read plenty about how Meyer, a Mormon, includes a lot of her religion’s beliefs in the series. (My guess is that this analysis is accurate, simply because talented Mormon storytellers have these concepts in their imaginative DNA.)

      Anyway, when I think of teen-sexed-up vampires, I don’t just think of Twilight but of many other knockoff adaptations, including at least one TV series I’ve seen advertised (possibly on The CW network). Even more contemporary adaptations of Dracula have, by accounts I’ve read, presumed the tragic/broken/positive sexual temptation of the character–which is diametrically opposed to the novel’s presentation of the Count’s (and his harem’s) sensuality as being unrestrained, vulgar, and wicked.

  3. Alex Mellen says:

    I just recently re-read Dracula and realized how much symbolism–genre-based and otherwise–is in it. “Those old genre books” aren’t always deep in a literary sense (think Jules Verne), but this one brought up themes of life and love, friendship, death, courage, and more. Plus a lot of me yelling at the characters for not picking up on the obvious clues that something is wrong.

    After reading this article, I’m curious if you’ve read Frankenstein. I think fewer of the original “monster” tropes are in Shelley’s novel, but it’s also a deep, compelling story.

    Finally, as a writer, I got a kick out of this blog: http://reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com/page/4. Someone reading Twilight posts about terrible character moments or wording choices. (warning: occasional strong language.)

  4. Haven’t read Dracula, though I’d like to some day. I used to really dislike vampires and werewolves when I was younger. Partially because they creeped me out, partly because I wasn’t allowed to read stories that contained them, and partly because a lot of times in popular media they came off as cheesy. Now one of my WIPs actually revolves around a world comprised of vampires and werewolves now, though it’s not much of a horror story(though it may end up with creepy parts) The story actually has several different types of vampires, and builds vampires and werewolves into complex creatures with a society all their own.

    I think some people tend to count a story as horror sometimes just because of the types of creatures that are in it, such as vampires, werewolves, etc., which is interesting, though I don’t think that’s necessarily the best definition of horror.

  5. I enjoyed Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the same reasons you listed here. (I’m not truly a horror fan though I’ve appreciated reading Mike Duran.) A few years ago I petitioned a church-related reading club to read the book. At first, the reaction was as expected; ‘What? You want us to read what?’ But once the book was read and discussed, several ladies thanked me for suggesting it.

  6. “However, a bonus: the overly weak notion that vampires explode in the sunlight? That’s a myth at least insofar as Dracula is concerned. Stoker’s vampires don’t do this. They simply lose their powers and become as mortal men.”

    Wait wait wait. You mean vampires aren’t tragically damned souls trapped in a monstrous half-life? They could quit any time they wanted and go back to being human — in short, they’re only vampires because THEY WANT TO BE???

    That is STRAIGHT-UP AMAZING. Why has nobody (that I know of) ever used this aspect of the folklore? What a fabulous metaphor for sin!

    • I’m not sure about other portrayals, but Stoker’s Dracula can only act as a mortal human during the daytime hours. Otherwise he would only sleep in a coffin. But by night he’s a creature of darkness, endowed with all the shape-shifting and seductive powers that indeed mark a particular kind of sensual, abuse-of-power evil.

      • I LOVED Dracula. It was partial inspiration for my first novel, CAIN, back in 2016. I felt very similar to you, Stephen, when reading it. All the same surprises. Although, I felt the vampires’ presences were distinctly demonic in their description–rather than sexual they seemed not interested in that, only to have that sort of pull on people. That make sense? It seemed to me that Stoker wanted to make them into the “next-level of demon possession” where the human soul is gone, and the body reclaimed by a demonic spirit. Basically… modern-day Nephilim.

  7. Laura Selinsky says:

    I teach “Dracula” every year to high school British Lit. students, and yes, a cross would control the vampire. When Jonathan Harker is at Dracula’s castle, he is repeatedly protected by a crucifix, which he believes is a trivial piece of superstition and wears only to appease the “ignorant” peasants who beseech him to don it. There’s also a subplot in which, after Lucy’s death, Van Helsing and Siward attempting to prevent Lucy’s transformation by placing a cross necklace on the corpse; alas, a maid steals it.

  8. David A Justiss says:

    I’ve read Frankenstein (for school), but not Dracula yet. Reading this post will move it higher on my to-read list.
    I did watch a movie just the other night (The Skull 1965 with Christopher Lee) in which a cross necklace saves a woman’s life from a demon.

What do you think?